By Chuck Livingston, Sports Editor, The Evening Times and ASU Mid-South Sports Information
After losing 77-76 at North Arkansas College two weeks ago, the Greyhounds ended their season with a loss to the #12 ranked Pioneers in the Region 2 Championship after winning 18 games for the second consecutive year.
"I am proud of the progress we have made as a program," said ASU Mid-South head coach and athletic director, Chris Parker. "This sophomore class won 36 games in their two years and set a standard for future teams to surpass. We are a much different program now than we were two years ago, and I'm proud of our young men for not only setting that standard, but doing it the right way."
In a game closer than the final score indicated, NorthArk hit eight three-pointers in the first half before sinking 24 of 36 free throws in the second half of a 95-73 decision.
"We talked about that at halftime and were committed not to get beat by the three and did a much better job in the second half by not allowing them to hit one," Parker said. "But we missed a lot of shots around the rim, our bigs got into foul trouble, they shot 36 second-half free throws to our 21, and we were not as disciplined offensively as we needed to be and did not shoot it well enough to win on this day."
ASU Mid-South got 13 points each from sophomores Tyler Armstrong, Tasmania Jones, and Joe'Randle Toliver and 12 from freshman Cameron Ricks. However, the balanced scoring was not enough to overcome the Pioneers' shooting in building a 51-41 lead at the break.
"If you told me we would force 19 turnovers to our 12, pull down 17 offensive rebounds and limit our opponent to only 8 offensive rebounds, I would say we have a great chance to win the game," Parker said. "However, you're not likely to beat anyone shooting 32 percent from the field, 56 percent from the foul line and committing 30 fouls."
The Greyhounds beat the #7 ranked Pioneers at The Dog House in January for their first win against a ranked opponent in the history of the program, but they lost to North Arkansas in a one-point thriller last week, before falling in the Region 2 title on Saturday.
"We just got beat by the better team that day," said Parker. "Can we beat them? Obviously we can, because we did. They were just better on that day when they needed to be."
North Arkansas improved to 27-4 with the win against ASU Mid-South and will now play in the District XIII Championship against MCC-Penn Valley in Kansas City for the opportunity to advance to the NJCAA national tournament.
"They have a very, very good team and are ranked 12th in the nation for a reason," said Parker. "This is the best season NorthArk has had in its history, so it's easy to lose perspective when trying to compare our programs, which are in very different places. What is clear is that we are making very quick progress and serving a purpose in our community by moving guys to opportunities at the next level and that is the primary purpose of our program, to help kids."
ASU Mid-South finishes their season 18-11 and will see five sophomores move on to their next opportunities. "After moving all five sophomores and a freshman last year, I fully expect all five of our sophomores this year to move on as well," said Parker. "We've had 4-year college coaches in nearly every week, and these guys have certainly earned the opportunity, and I know they will represent us well on the next level."